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Wednesday
Jun012011

Children of Divorce Show Deficits in Math and Social Skills

Comstock/Thinkstock(MADISON, Wis.) -- Most studies on divorce find that it has an adverse effect on children’s development, with some disadvantages being observed in high school completion rates, cognitive skills, psychosocial well-being as well as social relations.  However, many of these studies don’t differentiate between the effect of the divorce process and that of the family discord that usually precedes it.  Now a University of Wisconson-Madison study has drawn distinctions between those two periods.
 

The study author analyzed the math, reading and social skills of over 3,500 children from the time they were in kindergarten until they reached fifth grade.  She found that children who experienced parental divorce between first and third grade performed worse on math tests and exhibited poorer interpersonal skills than children of continually married parents. Reading test scores were not affected at any time.

These deficits were apparent both during the divorce period and after, but not before.  It seems that the negative effects of divorce occur during and after the divorce, but not during the pre-divorce period of “family discord" -- in this case, the period between kindergarten and 1st grade.
 
The author points out there are some limitations to this study.  First, it’s not known whether the children’s performance changes after fifth grade -- some experts argue that the effects are long-lasting, while others say that children recover as time passes.  Secondly, these observations are only applicable to cases of divorce occurring between first and third grade, and not to children experiencing divorce at any other age.

The study's findings are published in the American Sociological Review.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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